On April 8, 2015, Québec's premier announced the relaunch of Plan Nord.

The Québec Plan Nord was first introduced by the Québec government in 2011 as a long-term program for the social and economic development of Québec’s northern territory. It is now officially back on the province's agenda. On June 4, 2014, the government, in the presentation of the 2014-2015 budget plan (the “2014-2015 Budget”), announced that Plan Nord would be relaunched, and on April 8, the government presented its new Plan Nord.

Northern Québec covers an area of 1.2 million square kilometers, equal to 72% of Québec’s land. With its vast untapped natural resources and significant energy potential, Northern Québec requires the construction of roads and rail lines and other infrastructure to support related industry, serve northern communities, and develop its tourism potential. The government has set an objective to invest $50 billion in the Plan Nord by 2035.1 

In the spirit of promoting sustainable development, the Québec government has also committed to ensuring that biological protection and conservation measures are implemented in order to safeguard 50% of Plan Nord’s territory.2 The relaunch of the plan is a sign of the government’s commitment to realizing the sustainable development of Northern Québec — a potential source of significant business opportunities for local and international investors.

Measures taken by the government

Investments announced in the 2014-2015 budget

In the 2014-2015 Budget, the Government announced the creation of the Capital Mines Hydrocarbons fund, a $1-billion fund to acquire equity stakes in companies that extract mineral substances from land in the province.3 In addition, the 2014-2015 Budget provides that a sum of $20 million will be invested in a study to develop a new multi-user rail line to ensure better access to Northern Québec.4 Furthermore, the Government is looking to invest $100 million for training aboriginal populations, including establishing suitable educational facilities and training skilled workers to meet the additional labour needs.5 The Government is also planning to invest $3.2 million to support the implementation of the Québec tourism strategy established for Northern Québec.6

Development of Plan Nord in the 2015-2016 budget

The government recently released the 2015-2016 budget plan outlined in a document titled “The Québec Economic Plan."7 It announced the outcome of its investments in Plan Nord in 2014, and reiterated its commitment to continue the promotion and the development of NorthernQuébec.8 In summary, the government invested nearly $75 million to implement promising and strategic initiatives to develop and access Northern Québec last year. For the next five years, the government envisions an investment of $356.7 million in the Fonds du Plan Nord, dedicated to the development of Northern Québec.9 The Québec Economic Plan also provides various measures to promote mining exploration — including, among other things, renewing the mandate of the Société d’investissement et de diversification de l’exploration minière to promote the exploitation of mineral resources in the Plan Nord territory, and improving geoscientific knowledge of the territory.10

Plan Nord toward 2035, 2015-2020 Action Plan

On April 8, 2015, Québec’s premier, along with the minister of energy and natural resources and minister responsible for the Plan Nord and Côte-Nord Region, revealed The Plan Nord toward 2035, 2015-2020 Action Plan.11 The Action Plan announced a long-term vision and a series of priority actions that will be implemented over the next five years. 

In summary, the priority actions for 2015-2020 are:

  • Re-establishing a context conducive to mineral development based on a wide range of resources
  • Diversifying and promoting products from the forest environment and implementing integrated forest-management methods
  • Continuing to develop the north’s energy potential
  • Increasing the socio-economic benefits of wildlife activities while ensuring the long-term viability of the resource
  • Promoting tourism development by highlighting the area’s distinctive character
  • Designing and implementing a sustainable northern bio-food model based on potential in the area12

The government’s long-term vision is to make sure that, by 2035, the Plan Nord will have enabled the development of this resource-rich area, for the benefit of its population and the whole of Québec, through an exemplary form of sustainable development based on a comprehensive, integrated, consistent and responsible approach.13

Establishment of ministerial committee dedicated to Plan Nord

To support the sustainable development of Northern Québec, a new ministerial committee has been established with the mandate to revive the economic, social and environmental aspects of Plan Nord. One of the main tasks of the committee is to help promote Plan Nord around the world and attract investments.14 During the annual convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada, held in March 2015, the minister for mines presented Québec’s mining potential and Plan Nord to investors and delegations from various countries, including China, Latvia and Australia.15

Creation of the Société du Plan Nord

As part of the implementation of the Plan Nord, An Act Respecting The Société Du Plan Nord16 was passed by the Québec National Assembly on Dec. 4, 2014, and assented the following day. The act was adopted with the intention to constitute the Société du Plan Nord. The société is a representative of the government and will play a leading role in the deployment of the government’s strategy for the integrated and coherent development of Northern Québec.17 Its mission is to contribute, in collaboration with the representatives of the regions and the affected Aboriginal nations as well as the private sector, to the integrated and coherent development of Northern Québec, in keeping with the principle of sustainable development and in accordance with the government’s policy directions relating to the Plan Nord.18 Within the scope of its mission, the société may, among other things, co-ordinate and contribute financially or otherwise to the implementation of the government’s policy directions, co-ordinate infrastructure projects and assist and support local and Native communities.19 The Société began operations on April 1, 2015.

Opportunities for investors

Relaunching the Plan Nord is expected to help maximize the significant mining, energy and forestry potential in Northern Québec, a territory that accounts for Québec’s entire production of nickel, platinum, zinc and iron, as well as a substantial portion of its gold and diamond production.20 It also produces 75% of Québec’s hydroelectricity. Yet the region still has significant undeveloped hydro, wind and solar resource potential,21 and contains over 200,000 square kilometers of commercial forest.22

The relaunch of Plan Nord is also expected to create business and investment opportunities in construction, infrastructure, transportation, tourism and other industries. To ensure adequate transportation services, the government is calling for interested private partners to support — financially or technically — the study to develop a new rail line.23 To accelerate natural gas supply in Northern Québec, the government will review projects aiming at supplying liquefied natural gas and identify those that demonstrate environmental integrity and financial profitability.24 Lastly, given Northern Québec’s unique scenery and the diversity of its local culture, the government has also expressed its commitment to make Northern Québec a world-class tourist destination,25 thus creating the potential for opportunities in the dining and lodging industries.

The government has confirmed its commitment to reviving Plan Nord and renewing the economic, social and environmental development of Northern Québec, thus creating many potential business and investment opportunities for local and international enterprises.